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anything more unreasonable than that you should sanction the consumption of my sixpennyworth of muffins by these ravenous little mouths, when the extravagance was committed solely in Kathleen's honour? And then to send them down to heat themselves before the kitchen fire, as if they were not hot enough already!"
"It is very shocking, I dare say, Agnes; but the little people will, no doubt, appreciate the muffins more than Kathleen, who might, however, have been here to share them, if she had so chosen. And it was really necessary to clear the room by some means or other for I promised that this paper should be ready for Dawson at five, and he may be here at any moment to claim it."
And Mr. Lisle resumed his calculations with a sigh of relief at the comparative calm comparative only; for the baby's offended dignity could only be appeased by the succession of supernatural sounds with which Walter attempted to divert his attention from the defection of his playfellows.
"After all, mamma," said Walter, breaking off in the midst of a spirited imitation of cock-crowing "after all, that gentleman particularly said that Aunt Kathleen would not be here till the evening, and the carriages are only now coming in from the afternoon drives."
"Yes," said Agnes; "it was foolish to expect her so soon. But one forgets to keep count of fashionable hours."
"And one might have thought," said Mr. Lisle, looking up from his desk, "that after four years' ab
sence, Kathleen's impatience might have caused her to forget them likewise."
"Of course," rejoined Mrs. Lisle, quickly, "Kathleen would have been here long ago, if she had not to depend on the arrangements of others. It was probably inconvenient to Lady Harriet that the carriage should be out this afternoon."
"I see, Agnes," observed her husband, "that you are going to take up your indulgence of Kathleen just where you left it off four years ago. I am to be permitted to see no fault in her."
"Not when she is not here to justify herself. You must allow, Edward, that as long as Kathleen was with us, you spoiled her far more than I did, and it is only of late that you have taken up an unfounded suspicion that she has cast us off for her fine friends. But I wish that you would go on with your work, for we shall have the children back upon us directly."
"I have done," said Edward, dashing his pen under the last column of figures. "Dawson may come when he pleases; and if he does not bring with him an exorbitant sheaf of papers, I will positively do no more work to-night. My very brain aches with compound interest; and so, Walter, when mamma is putting the children to bed after tea, we will indulge ourselves in reading the Greek Testament."
The children were all in bed, and their mother had returned with the frocks and pinafores which had been worn during the day, to tack a clean collar into one, and to repair the rents or starting seams of another. Mr. Lisle and his boy had closed their books, but were still talking over derivations, Attic and Ionic, when the door was thrown back, Mrs. Lisle started up, and with
the half-uttered exclamations of "Kathleen!" the sisters were locked in each other's arms.
The joyful eagerness of the first greeting over, Agnes was able to note the transformation which time had wrought. In the graceful beauty who stood before her, she could scarcely recognise the unformed, halfgrown girl, with whom she had parted four years before. Kathleen was now tall and slender, with a wellformed head and throat, and a profile of classical beauty. The almost severe regularity of feature was redeemed by the liquid softness of her eyes, of that peculiar shade of grey which betrays an Irish extraction, as well as by the colouring, rich and clear, of her complexion. Her purple black hair lay upon her temples, and was wrapped round her head in glossy folds; and she wore a white dress, high up to the throat, and unrelieved by any ornament, but confined sash-wise round her waist by a Roman scarf.
Agnes was a prudent elder sister, and her admiration was expressed in the primary meaning of the word, only in simple wonder: "How you have grown, Kathleen, and so changed! I hardly knew you when you came in."
"I should have known you anywhere," said Kathleen; "I have seen nothing like your pale and pretty face since I went away, or, at least, only in my dreams. And Walter is very like you."
"Have you nothing civil to say to me?" Edward Lisle demanded. "When there is such a flight of pretty speeches, it is hard if I may not come in for a share."
Kathleen glanced at him, gaily at first, then she shook her hand, and answered, with a shade of gravity
"Nothing complimentary, I am afraid. Has he been ill, Agnes, or is he only growing old?"
The wife looked up anxiously; but she was reassured, and answered, smiling, "We are all growing old, dear, but Edward looks much as usual."
And how is Walter?" said Kathleen, stooping to kiss his forehead, "not better, I am afraid."
"Not worse, Aunt Kathleen," answered the boy, eager to anticipate his mother's reply;. "I get on with my crutches much more cleverly than I used to do."
Agnes caressingly entwined the long thin fingers within her own, as she said: "He is not looking his best just now; the hot weather is so very trying for him, and the room is close."
"Ah! so he thought, so I heard," said Kathleen.
Her brother-in-law looked up rather mischievously. "Who thought, Kathleen? Walter was much honoured by the visit which he had this afternoon, but he was too courteous to ask the stranger's name and Hannah, heavy-headed as she is heavy-footed, was too slow to hear it. 'Cream cheese' was the nearest approach that she could make."
"How scandalized the Wilmots would be if they heard you," said Kathleen, with an embarrassed laugh; "it was their cousin, Lord De Cressy, a very old Norman title."
"Never mind his title," said Edward; "we can unravel the pedigree at our leisure, and I would rather hear of its owner. How is it that we have never heard his name, since you were fellow-travellers, as he told Walter, and are now so intimate that he runs your errands?"
"We are not so very intimate," said Kathleen, colouring. "He happened to be by when I was trying to persuade Lady Harriet to let me come on here at once, and he said that he should be walking this way, and could leave a message. I thought that I had men
but there was always
tioned his joining us at Verona so much to say, and postage was so dear, that I never could get enough into a sheet.”
"And so you left out what would be most interesting to hear," said Mr. Lisle.
Agnes interposed, as if she had discovered that this was not a subject for raillery. "You see, Kathleen," she said, "that Edward has not altered his ways, and that he is as ready to torment you as when he used to arouse your indignation by speaking disrespectfully of Ireland. And that aspersion on your letters was quite uncalled for, considering how greedy he was after them."
"He may teaze me as much as he likes," rejoined Kathleen; "it is only refreshing because I am so glad to be at home. Now I must not stay, for the carriage is waiting, and it was out all the morning. I will come to-morrow as early as I can; but Lady Harriet says that I must not walk from Lowndes-square alone. Do you think there is any harm in it?"
"I hope not," said Agnes; "at least, not for me. But you must conform to the usages of the house, and keep up the dignity of a young lady for the present."
"Ah," said Kathleen, glancing at her white dress, “I was afraid that you would think me dreadfully smart but there were one or two people at dinner, and the scarf was Lady Harriet's present."
"You look very nice," returned the elder sister;